G. M. Trevelyan

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G. M. Trevelyan circa 1900

George Macaulay Trevelyan (16 February 187621 July 1962) was an English historian and academic.


  • The discredit to the good name of England if she drifts, however unintentionally, into a partition of the Persian State with the Russian Government, and the consequent setback to the moral element in our foreign policy, cannot lightly be faced.
    • Letter to The Times (25 October 1910), p. 6
  • The occupation of Tripoli appears to rest on the same basis as the occupation of other parts of North Africa by other European Powers—viz., on the law of force. Some of us wish, for the sake of our friends the Italians, that the Italian State had continued to rest on the stronger, nobler, and more economical basis of a free national union of a single race. But the Italians may know their own affairs best, and in any case we are in no position to scold them for imitating ourselves.
    • Letter to The Times (1 November 1911), p. 8
  • It is perhaps in the sphere of political institutions that the English have been most original in their native invention, from the time of Magna Charta downwards, or even from the time of William the Conqueror. Certainly it is in politics that the world at large has borrowed most from us; for our literature, though as great as the Greek or Latin, has had relatively little influence outside the English-speaking nations. In politics modern Italy, under Cavour, went to school in England, borrowing thence her constitutional monarchy and parliament. Yet even in the realm of political ideas, where we have taught more than we learned, how much we owed to Ancient Rome! The Conservative idea of respect for law and of the sovereign regal power was throughout our history sanctioned by the glamour of classical association hanging round the words Lex, Rex, Imperator. Our Plantagenet and our Tudor foundations were built on the Roman model. And no less in the realm of Liberal thought, the ideal of Roman Republican virtue, perpetuated in Livy, Plutarch, and Tacitus, did as much to inspire Milton, Sidney, and the opponents of the Stuarts as the Old Testament itself.
    • 'Englishmen and Italians: Some Aspects of Their Relations Past and Present', read before the British Academy (June 1919), quoted in Clio, A Muse: And other Essays (1913; rev. ed. 1930), p. 106
  • In our own day classics have been dethroned without being replaced. But throughout the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries our statesmen were so brought up that they thought of Rome as the hearth of their political civilization, where their predecessor Cicero had denounced Catiline; where the models of their own eloquence and statecraft, as taught them at Eton, Harrow and Winchester, had been practised and brought to perfection. And, therefore, the ruins of the Forum were as familiar, as sacred, and as moving to Russell and to Gladstone as to Mazzini and Garibaldi themselves. This was a prime fact in the history of the Risorgimento.
    • 'Englishmen and Italians: Some Aspects of Their Relations Past and Present', read before the British Academy (June 1919), quoted in Clio, A Muse: And other Essays (1913; rev. ed. 1930), p. 107
  • Linguistic ignorance and racial isolation are our greatest national dangers in the new era opened out by the War. We can no longer stand apart from Europe if we would. Yet we are untrained to mix with our neighbours, or even talk to them. Foreign policy is merely an outcome of our other international relations, and can only give official expression to our national ignorance or our national understanding of other races. The League of Nations is not a substitute for mutual understanding; rather it assumes that such understanding exists, and if that cannot soon be brought into existence, the League will fail, and with it the hopes of mankind.
    • The Recreations of an Historian (1919), p. 241
  • The abolition of the slave trade in 1807 was indeed the one large measure of reform that became law between the French Revolution and Castlereagh's death in 1822. It is greatly to the credit of our ancestors that England, in her death-grip with Napoleon, should have given time and thought to do justice to the negro. It was a fine use to make of the sea power that Nelson bequeathed us for the duration of the war. And, at the return of peace, the world-wide influence that Trafalgar and Waterloo gave to England's representatives was used by Castlereagh and Wellington, in consultation with Wilberforce, to further the suppression of slave trading under every flag.
    • 'Wilberforce: The Centenary of a Warrior', The Times (29 July 1933), p. 13
  • Instead of a little power, occasionally exercised at the expense of great unpopularity, the Monarch, by retiring from politics, acquired an immense popularity outside, and retained important influence behind the scenes. The new popularity of the Monarch was proved at the Jubilees of Victoria and of George V. The new English Democracy is in love with the Crown. Radicalism, founded by Tom Paine in the days of George III, had had strong Republican tendencies, but they had withered away as the Crown retired from politics. The modern Labour Party has no quarrel with the English Monarchy. The symbolic importance of the Monarch has greatly increased even in our own day. The Crown is the one symbol that all classes and parties can without reservation accept.
    • 'Monarchy and the Constitution: A Historical Survey', The Times (11 May 1937), p. 41
  • As regards "predominance in Europe," whether "Germany wished" it or not, she would have got it, if she had once more overrun France. And she would have overrun France as well as Belgium if England had not intervened. Then there would have been an end of the independence of all Continental States in face of Germany, and in face of such a Europe British independence could not have been maintained. German predominance would have been just as fatal to us whether it had been intentionally or unintentionally acquired. Such at least was Grey's view, and it will always be the view of many Englishmen.
    • Letter to The Times (12 August 1937), p. 11
  • Dictatorship and democracy must live side by side in peace, or civilization is doomed. For this end I believe Englishmen would do well to remember that the Nazi form of government is in large measure the outcome of Allied and British injustice at Versailles in 1919.
    • Letter to The Times (12 August 1937), p. 11
  • That England and Italy should be on friendly terms is essential for the peace of the Mediterranean and of Africa. It is also essential for the peace of Europe, and therefore, in all probability, for the prosperity and independence of both countries. An ideological war between the great Powers of Europe would destroy all that is left of good in our civilization. Italy and England can cooperate to avert that catastrophe. Such cooperation involves no disloyalty on Italy's part to her German partner, nor on ours to France. There is a common European interest—peace. I feel deeply grateful to Mr. Chamberlain for his cheerful courage in taking a definite step towards reconciliation, in face of great difficulties in the path.
    • Letter to The Times (19 April 1938), p. 11
  • Socrates gave no diplomas or degrees, and would have subjected any disciple who demanded one to a disconcerting catechism on the nature of true knowledge.
  • The sum total of progress associated with the the Industrial Revolution has not been wholly for the good of man.
    • Illustrated English Social History. Vol. 3[1]
  • I read with regret that the authorities intend to remove the statue of Gordon from Trafalgar Square and send it down to Sandhurst. I hope the decision is not irrevocable. His memory is not specially suited to inspire young officers with zeal for discipline and obedience to orders.
    On the other hand, he is a true national hero; his strange and tragic story is deeply written across our political and imperial annals; his personality and genius were unique, and will always remain a source of pride to Englishmen.
    • Letter to The Times (3 May 1948), p. 5
  • The dead were and are not. Their place knows them no more and is ours today...The poetry of history lies in the quasi-miraculous fact that once, on this earth, once, on this familiar spot of ground, walked other men and women, as actual as we are today, thinking their own thoughts, swayed by their own passions, but now all gone, one generation vanishing into another, gone as utterly as we ourselves shall shortly be gone, like ghosts at cockcrow.
    • "Autobiography of an Historian", An Autobiography and Other Essays (1949)
  • I am sure I am as little of a Jacobite as anybody but I sincerely hope that the statue of James II will not be moved, because it is a fine work of art. If once we begin moving statues for political or historical reasons there will be no end to controversy.
    • Letter to The Times (13 March 1958), p. 11

British History in the Nineteenth Century (1782–1901) (1922)

  • A British officer in Flanders in 1918, transplanted to a British messroom in the same country in 1793, would be more at home than in a foreign messroom of to-day. Though he would find the drinking too heavy for him, he would be surrounded by presumptions indefinably familiar. He would be critical of much, but he would understand from inside what he was criticising. Most of us would be at home taking tea at Dr. Johnson's, hearing the contact of civilised man with society discussed with British commonsense and good nature, with British idiosyncrasy and prejudice. Only we should be aware that we had stepped back out of a scientific, romantic and mobile era into an era literary, classical and static.
    • p. xiv
  • A subject of Frederick the Great of Prussia, who had strayed into the middle of a Westminster election in 1782, thus describes what he saw and felt there... It is true that if the good man had witnessed an election at an average English borough, or had ascertained that Manchester and Birmingham were unrepresented, he might have felt less enraptured. Nevertheless, he had seen something great, which had then no parallel in France, Spain, Italy or in his own country, something which, for all its absurdities, was of the heart of England.
    • p. 17
  • The persistence of the Foxite tradition in one section of the governing class made it possible for Grey, at the end of his long career, to constitute a party in the unreformed Parliament, large enough when backed from outside by the middle and lower classes, to pass the Bill that abolished the rotten boroughs. Nothing else could have ultimately averted civil war. It was certainly inevitable, and it may have been desirable, that a great Conservative reaction should emphasise our rejection of the French doctrines. But if the whole of the privileged class had joined Pitt's anti-Jacobin bloc and had been brought up in the neo-Tory tradition, the constitution could not have been altered by legal means, and change could only have come in nineteenth-century Britain along the same violent and bloodstained path by which it has come in continental countries.
    • p. 69
  • The Napoleonic war (1803–15) that followed the brief interval of the Peace of Amiens, was for us a war waged in self-defence, to prevent the systematic subordination of Europe to a vigorous military despotism sworn to our destruction. A few months at the Foreign Office in 1806 and an attempt to treat with our adversary for peace, made this clear even to Fox, who had been till then singularly blind to the real character of Bonaparte. But the Whigs were only enthusiastic for the war by fits and starts. The honour of beating Napoleon fell as clearly to the Tories, as the honour of beating Louis XIV had fallen to the Whigs.
    • p. 108
  • The greatest gains with which Britain emerged from the war did not appear in the treaties. There were the unrivalled supremacy of our navy and of our mercantile marine; the reputation of having been the only Power that consistently withstood Napoleon; the possession of a Parliamentary system now more than ever the envy of "less happier lands" since the relative failure of "French principles" of liberty. With these advantages we faced the coming era.
    • p. 140
  • [T]he merits of the great settlement associated with the names of Wellington and Castlereagh gave Britain security which she used for a hundred years of progress in liberty and high civilisation; while the defects of the same settlement, for which also they were in part though in smaller degree responsible, set a date to that happiness in the end.
    • p. 141
  • It is significant of much that in the seventeenth century members of Parliament quoted from the Bible; in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries from the classics; in the twentieth century from nothing at all.
    • p. 214
  • The spirit of the new age in face of these new problems, formulated in theory by Bentham, was first manifested in Government action by the Liberal-Tories in Canning's day. But the monopoly of power had still been strictly preserved. To the Whigs between 1830 and 1835 belongs the credit of destroying the monopoly, reinterpreting the Constitution, and harnessing public opinion to the machine of government. Whatever some of the Whigs might say about the "finality" of their Bill, this new principle, when once admitted, could brook no limitation until complete democracy had been realised under old English forms. On the other hand the belief of the anti-Reform Tories that the Reform Bill would lead at once to the overthrow of Crown and Lords, Church and property, was the exact reverse of the truth. It was due to the Bill that England was not involved in the vicious circle of continental revolution and reaction, and that our political life kept its Anglo-Saxon moorings
    • p. 225
  • The people did not become sovereign in Germany when Bismarck granted limited popular rights, because those rights had not been won by the action of the nation itself, as the First Reform Bill had been won. In England, "the nation" was defined afresh by each of the Franchise Acts of 1867, 1884, and 1918, but the fact that the nation was master in its own house had been settled once for all in the days of May.
    • p. 242
  • Political self-government, central and local, was an English invention, imported into Scotland by the Grey Ministry, but intensely popular in spite of its foreign origin. Although in temper, creed and outlook on life the Scottish people were less submissive than the English, the civil institutions of their country contained in 1830 no elements of popular election such as always existed here and there in the south of the island. There was no safety-valve for all that pent energy. The Reform Bill, in England an evolution, in Scotland was a revolution, veiled in form of law, and the passions aroused over it had been proportionately more fierce.
    • p. 243
  • It was difficult to understand what was going on across the Channel, but there was satisfaction in the thought that we were not as other nations. Our social and political troubles, it was held, lay behind us, wisely solved in advance—by Queen Elizabeth, William of Orange, Pitt, Lord Grey, Mr. Cobden or Sir Robert Peel, according to choice—and above all by the calm good sense of the British people. In the middle of the European revolutions the first part of Macaulay's history was published, and attained at once a popularity and influence analogous to that of Scott, Byron or Dickens. There were many grounds for its success, but one was that it presented a reasoned eulogy of Britain and things British, as that age understood them. Nor could the historian resist the temptation of inserting a passage proudly contrasting 1688 at home with 1848 abroad.
    • p. 295

England Under Queen Anne: Blenheim (1930)

  • If...the story of the great events and the great men of our Augustan age could be told in its truth and simplicity, as only the man of Athens could have told it, it would move like a five-act tragedy from start to finish, presenting in turn the overweening pride and the fall of Louis, then of Marlborough and of the Whigs, then of the Tories in their turn, while, through the crash of each successive crisis of war and politics, the fortune of England moves forward on the tide of destiny. And what men that little rustic England could breed! A nation of five and a half millions that had Wren for its architect, Newton for its scientist, Locke for its philosopher, Bentley for its scholar, Pope for its poet, Addison for its essayist, Bolingbroke for its orator, Swift for its pamphleteer and Marlborough to win its battles, had the recipe for genius.
    • p. vii
  • The movement towards philanthropy instead of persecution, as an outlet for religious enthusiasm, was one of the characteristic fruits of the Revolution, as also was the improvement in public justice, both political and criminal. Because the Revolution Settlement was not a party victory, but an agreed compromise between Whig and Tory, Church and Dissent, it made humanity, moderation and co-operation the main current of affairs in the Eighteenth Century.
    • p. 70
  • The erection of British naval and commercial supremacy on a footing that proved permanent for more than two hundred years, might not unreasonably be regarded as the most important outcome of the reign of Anne.
    • p. 247
  • This great but noiseless revolution in sea-power was accomplished by the victories of Marlborough's arms and diplomacy on land; by the maintenance of England's fighting navy at full strength during the time when French and Dutch were perforce disarming at sea; and by the wise application of an amphibious strategy in the Mediterranean, dreamed of by Cromwell, conceived by William, and executed by Marlborough, through the agency of such capable seamen as Rooke, Leake, Shovell and Byng. It was because Marlborough regarded the naval war as an integral part of the whole allied effort against Louis, that English sea power was fixed between 1702 and 1712 on a basis whence no enemy has since been able to dislodge it.
    • p. 248
  • The success of England and her allies in the War of the Spanish Succession, which curbed "the exorbitant power of France" for eighty years to come, influenced the whole tone of Eighteenth Century civilization in a thousand ways. The defeat of Louis is one of the most prominent facts in history. We are, therefore, apt to forget how very near he came to attaining world-power, by the retention of the whole Spanish Empire as a field of French influence, and by the virtual annexation of the Netherlands and of Italy as jewels in the French Crown. He was never nearer to success than in the spring of 1704. Nothing but the accident of Marlborough's genius, and some lucky turns of fortune in the field that year, diverted the paths of destiny.
    • p. 341
  • But for all their nonsense and faction, the English were acquiring a new conception of the place of their country in the world, as the mistress of the Mediterranean, "the scourge of France, the arbitress of Europe," to whom foreign Princes and peoples looked for help and justice not in vain. England was more than all she had been under Elizabeth, more than all she had been under Cromwell, for she was now a united nation with a fixed and free Constitution. Whig and Tory might bark and bicker, but they carried on the nation's work between them, because the blood-feud of sects and parties had been staunched by the compromise of the Revolution Settlement, which, by giving to England domestic peace, based more securely than on force, had opened to her the paths of greatness abroad.
    • p. 423

England Under Queen Anne: Ramillies and the Union with Scotland (1932)

  • As contrasted with our treatment of Ireland and our dealings with America, the Scottish Union stands out in the Eighteenth Century as a thing apart, an unwonted and surprising act of wise Imperial initiative. The men who made the Union of 1707 (Marlborough, Godolphin, Somers and Harley for England, Queensberry and Argyle for Scotland) were not selfless patriots—it was not an age productive of such. They were shrewd, worldly men, capable of looking the real facts of a situation in the face. And they studied the interest of their respective countries all the better because, unlike Fletcher of Saltoun, they could do so without too much zeal. They were, moreover, free from the religious and political fanaticisms of the previous century, which had so often stood in the way of agreement by mutual concession.
    • p. viii
  • The action of these courageous but wary statesmen was based, not on theory, but on sound information and calculation of all the forces on the board. Such was the method of the Whigs and Tories who made the Revolution Settlement of 1689, the Act of Settlement of 1701 that fixed the Succession on the House of Hanover, and half-a-dozen years later this Union with Scotland. These three settlements, on which the British Constitution has rested ever since, are parts of a single scheme; they were all of them made in the same spirit of compromise between parties, churches, and nations, and therefore they were never over-set. The not very idealistic statesmen of that Augustan age laid the foundation of modern Britain more wisely and well than the passionate Cavaliers and Roundheads of an earlier time had been able to do. It was the heroic idealists—Laud, Hampden, Cromwell, Montrose—who had rough-hewn the issues of controversy, but the terms of settlement were drawn up by their prudently compromising successors in the reigns of William and Anne. The Scottish Union was a piece of their most characteristic and successful work.
    • p. ix
  • [I]f the lesson of Marlborough's genius at Blenheim had been taught in vain to those in Holland and Germany who refused to learn, it had its full effect in our island. Bishop Burnet was not the only man whose "heart was so charged with joy he could not sleep" on the night when the news came through. In manor house, farm and workshop a race of country-folk, who commonly heard and thought about little save their own quiet occupations, were stirred by the strange tidings from the Danube, which opened wider vistas to the imagination, recalled fireside talk of King Harry at Agincourt and Queen Bess at Tilbury, and pointed forward to a future of illimitable magnitude for their country and their children, dimly descried like the sun rising behind the midst.
    • p. 2

England Under Queen Anne: The Peace and the Protestant Succession (1934)

  • At Utrecht the bigwigged Plenipotentiaries ended an epoch, and liquidated the fifty years' struggle of the smaller States of Europe to save themselves from the hegemony of France, and of the Protestants of Europe to save themselves from the fate of the French Huguenots. These two movements of self-defence, combined by the political genius of William, had triumphed through the military genius of Marlborough. England, entering late into the struggle, had decided the issue. Her success had demonstrated that a country of free institutions could defeat a State based upon autocratic rule. This was a new idea in the world, and caused men to think afresh on the maxims of State.
    • p. vii
  • If we consider the relative positions of France and of England from 1680 to 1688, and compare them with the situation when Anne died, the contrast is great indeed. England, lately despised abroad and distraught at home, had become the chief instrument in winning the world war, and had then dictated the Peace. With sea-power no longer rivalled either by France or Holland, with financial and commercial pre-eminence hardly less remarkable, and endowed for the moment with the martial greatness lent her by Marlborough, Great Britain was relatively more important in the world in 1713 than in 1815 or 1919. No country save France was then a rival to her greatness.
    • pp. vii-viii
  • Kindly old England has always in the long run revolted against "fascist" experiments at the permanent suppression of "the other side".
    • p. 96
  • Apart from a few Crown appointments, like the Christ Church and Trinity Headships, Oxford and Cambridge had ever since the Revolution enjoyed a very complete immunity from Royal and Ministerial interference—an academic liberty that held in it the seeds of intellectual freedom for the whole country, as compared to the practice in many other lands down to our own time. The quarrel of James II with the Universities was constantly in the recollection of the dons, who, whether Whig or Tory, would never, in his daughter's reign, permit the least interference with their internal government by royal mandate or request. Any such attempt was promptly met by expressions of the hope that Queen Anne would "reflect upon what was done in Magdalen College in her father's time." Meanwhile politics swayed College elections, as in the case of poor "Mr. Entwissle's pretensions" to a Fellowship at Brazennose, for the young man was found to be a Whig, "which was against the present humour of the College." Such an incident in 1711 is not surprising, but it is a remarkable proof of academic freedom from government control that Oxford was permitted to continue such practices and to remain Tory, and largely Jacobite, under the Hanoverian kings and their Whig governments. Academic and scholastic freedom, which is a necessary condition of intellectual and political freedom, was established as against the State in Eighteenth Century England. In a great part of Europe it does not exist to-day. It is one of the island blessings we have inherited from our Whig and Tory ancestors.
    • p. 128
  • Our formidable factions, for all their nonsense and violence, served to protect the liberty of the subject. It is only in States based on the less civilized principle that no party may exist save the party of government, that liberty of press and person can be totally destroyed, whether in the Eighteenth or the Twentieth Century. That is not the English tradition.
    • p. 206
  • When Bolingbroke fled to France, Oxford, with the cool courage that was the finer part of his phlegmatic nature, remained to stand his trial. Fortunately the French archives were not available to the prosecution; and the House of Lords, always at this period a moderator of party heats, acquitted him as it had acquitted Somers sixteen years before. In so doing, it served England well, for the use of impeachments against fallen statesmen is unsuited to a constitutional regime. In civilized society men cannot be expected to serve their country with ropes round their necks.
    • p. 316
  • Security and liberty were obtained under the Hanoverian Constitution, because, under Walpole, the Whigs became, what they had not always been, the "moderate men."
    • p. 318
  • After long generations of trouble, persecution and hatred, England had at last won through to a period of domestic peace and individual freedom. It was not a period of avowed idealism; it was not a period of legislative reform. But neither idealism nor reform is the whole of life for men or nations. The vigour and initiative of Englishmen, at home and overseas, in all branches of human effort and intellect, were the admiration of Eighteenth Century Europe. The greatness of England in the Hanoverian epoch was made by men acting freely in a free community, with little help indeed from Church or State, but with no hindrance. The great art of letting your neighbour alone, even if he thinks differently from you, was learnt by Englishmen under Walpole, at a time when the lesson was still a strange one elsewhere. Some European countries have not learnt it to this day or are rapidly unlearning it again.
    • pp. 319-320
  • The specific work of the early Eighteenth Century in England, on the line down which it was launched by the events of Anne's reign, was the establishment of the rule of law, and that law a law of liberty. On that solid foundation the reforms of succeeding epochs have been based.
    • p. 321
  • If England between the Revolution and the death of George II had not established the rule of the law of freedom, the England of the Nineteenth Century would have proceeded along the path of change by methods of violence, instead of by Parliamentary modification of the law. The establishment of liberty was not the result of the complete triumph of any one party in the State. It was the result of the balance of political parties and religious sects, compelled to tolerate one another, until toleration became a habit of the national mind. Even the long Whig supremacy that was the outcome and sequel of the reign of Anne, was conditional on a vigilant maintenance of institutions in Church and State that were specifically dear to the Tories, and a constant respect for the latent power of political opponents, who were fellow subjects and brother Englishmen.
    • p. 321

English Social History (1942)

  • If the French noblesse had been capable of playing cricket with their peasants, their chateaux would never have been burnt.
    • ch. 8
  • In those days, before it became scientific, cricket was the best game in the world to watch, with its rapid sequence of amusing incidents, each ball a potential crisis!
    • ch. 8
  • [Education] has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading.
    • ch. 18

A Shortened History of England (1959)

  • The era when London awoke to find herself the maritime centre of the suddenly expanded globe, was also the era of the Renaissance and the Reformation - movements of intellectual growth and individual self-assertion which proved more congenial to the British than to many other races, and seemed to emancipate the island genius.
    • Introduction
…Britain alone…elaborated a system by which a debating club of elected persons could successfully govern an Empire…
  • Against Machiavelli's princely interpretation of the new nationalism, Britain alone of the great national States successfully held out, turned back the tide of despotism, and elaborated a system by which a debating club of elected persons could successfully govern an Empire in peace and in war.
    • Introduction
  • One outcome of the Norman Conquest was the making of the English language. ...the speech of Alfred and Bede, was exiled from hall and bower, from court and cloister, and was despised as a peasant's jargon... It ceased almost, though not quite, to be a written language. … Now when a language is seldom written and is not an object of interest to scholars, it quickly adapts itself in the mouths of plain people to the needs and uses of life. ...it can be altered much more easily when there are no grammarians to protest. During the three centuries when our native language was a peasant's dialect, it lost its clumsy inflexions and elaborate genders, and acquired the grace, suppleness, and adaptability which are among its chief merits.
  • Their demands were limited and practical, and for that reason they successfully initiated a movement that led in the end to yet undreamt-of liberties for all.
  • The Charter was regarded as important because it assigned definite and practical remedies to temporary evils. There was very little that was abstract in its terms, less even than later generations supposed.... A King had been brought to order, not by a posse of reactionary feudalists, but the community of the land under baronial leadership; a tyrant had been subjected to the laws which hitherto it had been his private privilege to administer and to modify at will. A process had begun which was to end in putting the power of the Crown into the hands of the community at large.
    • on the Magna Carta's legacy
  • She regarded it as a first charge of her slender war-budget to see that French and Dutch independence were maintained against Philip. This was secured, partly by English help and by the holding of the seas, and partly by domestic alliance of the Calvinists with Catholic 'politiques' averse to Spanish domination; it followed that an element of liberality and toleration very rare in the Europe of that day made itself felt in France and in Holland in a manner agreeable to Elizabeth's eclectic spirit.
  • In the Stuart era, the English developed for themselves, without foreign participation or example, a system of Parliamentary government, local administration and freedom of speech and person, clean contrary to the prevailing tendencies on the continent, which was moving fast toward regal absolution, centralized bureaucracy, and the subjection of the individual to the State.

Quotes about G. M. Trevelyan

  • The Garibaldi trilogy established him as the best-selling historian of his generation, and by the outbreak of the Second World War, England Under the Stuarts was in its seventeenth edition. By 1949 British History in the Nineteenth Century had sold 68,000 copies and the History of England 200,000. But even these astonishing figures were eclipsed by the English Social History. Within a year, it had sold 100,000 copies, and by the early 1950s sales had exceeded half a million. There had been nothing like it since Macaulay – a precedent of which Trevelyan was well and happily aware. Nor do these statistics give any accurate impression of the total audience that Trevelyan reached: for many of his books were bought by libraries and used in schools and must have been read many times over. The tributes paid him in later years – that he had done more to promote interest in history than any other man alive – were wholly deserved.
  • Narrative technique was the natural vehicle for such influential historians of the two eras as G. M. Trevelyan and Basil Williams, yet whatever their other professional gifts it is now impossible to examine their narratives without a mounting sense of frustration at the shallowness, the superficiality and glibness of much of their writing, their willingness to skate over ignorance with a commonly received form of words, and to evade important problems with a well-turned generalisation.
    • J. C. D. Clark, Revolution and Rebellion: State and Society in England in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (1986), pp. 18-19
  • As concerns the problems of foreign policy, I am paying Mr. Trevelyan the highest compliment which it is in my power to pay him, when I say that, looking at things from abroad, I find after all very little to criticize in his liberal and scrupulously judicial, though patriotic, treatment of this most difficult problem: the way in which he deals with the subject of the diplomatic and moral relations between England and the United States deserves special commendation. In so far as foreign politics bring England into contact and occasional conflict with the outer world, British History becomes merged in World History; and here again we find Mr. Trevelyan, thanks to the liberal and philosophic turn of his mind, equal to the task. His survey of Napoleon the Third's policy, and his characterisation of the Prussian Bismarckian régime are masterpieces of quiet and high-minded impartiality.
    • Élie Halévy, 'Reviewed Work: British History in the Nineteenth Century (1782–1901) by G. M. Trevelyan', History, New Series, Vol. 7, No. 28 (January 1923), pp. 309-310
  • His whole life was a celebration of English civilization. When he wrote about Europe – in just five of his twenty books – it was to write about Italy and how much more difficult and delayed was the coming of liberty to a country riddled with priestcraft and superstition. He was profoundly paternalistic in his social values; liberal in his racial values; progressive in his political values and intolerant in his religious attitudes (though less in later life).
    • John Morrill, 'Introduction' to G. M. Trevleyan, England Under the Stuarts (2002 ed.), pp. ix-x
  • A prize I got for good work at school was one of G. M. Trevelyan's Garibaldi books. This fascinated me, and soon I obtained the other two volumes of the series and studied the whole Garibaldi story in them carefully. Visions of similar deeds in India came before me, of a gallant fight for freedom, and in my mind India and Italy got strangely mixed together.
  • It is a wonderful evening, and the Master and Mrs Trevelyan take me for a walk down the limes and on to the Fellows' Garden beyond. George Trevelyan tells me that Gladstone told his father that they should always be grateful for living in the great age of Liberalism. "Other generations, my dear Trevelyan, will be less fortunate." But who could have conceived that any generation would suffer as we have done?
    • Harold Nicolson, diary entry (16 October 1941), quoted in Harold Nicolson, Diaries and Letters, 1939–1945, ed. Nigel Nicolson (1967), p. 188
  • [I]t was he [Bernard Pares] who first interested his friend G. M. Trevelyan in Garibaldi by giving him a copy of the Autobiography as a wedding present: surely one of the most momentous wedding presents in literary history.
    • Richard Pares, The Historian's Business, and Other Essays (1961), p. 43
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  1. Illustrated English Social History. Vol. 3. Longman Green and Co.LTD. 1951. Hardback. P.150.